Along Lake Ontario’s northwestern shore sits Toronto, the capital of the providence of Ontario, Canada–and a hub for major vacation fun. It’s both refreshingly urban and quaint, made up of a network of diverse neighborhoods, soaring skyscrapers, cozy cafes, micro-breweries, foodie hot-spots, and more hidden gems. Here are the top ten local places to experience next time your there (that also won’t break the bank). And while you may find yourself a little off the beaten path, this guide will keep you on the right track.
One – Monkey’s Paw
1267 Bloor Street W
The Monkey’s Paw is a book lover’s dream. The eclectic store, named after a horror short story by author W.W. Jacobs, is owned by Stephen Fowler. He organizes the books based on four categories: the beautiful, the arcane, the macabre, and the absurd. Get lost in the stacks here, plus try your hand at the world’s first Biblio-Mat, a custom-made vending machine that dispenses out a random vintage book for only $2.
Two – Te Aro Coffee
983 Queen Street E
Caffeinate for the day with a cup of joe from the newest spot in the Leslieville neighborhood, Te Aro. Named after a New Zealand suburb, this coffee shop has a modern-yet-comfortable feel with a spacious outdoor patio space. The coffee is outsourced from Pilot Coffee Roasters and holds the reputation for some of the best coffee in all of Canada.
Three – The Merril Collection
239 College Street
Sci-fi lovers, this one’s for you. The Merril Collection of Science Fiction is a special room on the third floor of the Lillian H. Smith Library. It is home to one of the world’s largest collections of science fiction books, art, magazines and other works. Visitors seeking to check it out are only allowed access to the room for a limited amount of time, so be sure to plan ahead.
Four – Leslieville Crazy Dollhouse
37 Bertmount Avenue
While most houses chose to plant flowers, the residents at the Leslieville Crazy Dollhouse opt for more evergreen picks. And by that, we mean plastic: superhero action figures, Hello Kitties, troll dolls, and mermaids. And they don’t just stop in the planters–owner Shirley Sumaiser has placed her expansive collection in her fence, mounted on wooden stakes, and lining her porch. The result is an ever-changing garden of knick-knacks worth checking out.
Five – Grand Electric
1330 Queen Street W
It’s no contest that Grand Electric is home to the best tacos in Toronto (some might argue the world). Everything on the menu will make your mouth water, and committed customers will wait for 1-3 hours just to get a bite. Need we really say more than “best tacos in Toronto?” We didn’t think so. See you in line.
Six – The Vog Vault
686 Queen Street W
In what used to be a former bank vault nows lives the world’s first ever, gravity defying Vog Vault. This illusion room is housed in the back of John Fluevog Shoes, so you can browse some of Toronto’s most precious Fluevogs before snapping a photo in the vault. The nine-square-foot room features a Victorian loveseat and bookshelf, making it both a novelty and Insta-worthy spot to hit.
Seven – Campbell House
160 Queen Street W
The Campbell House is one of the last remaining examples of Georgian architecture in Toronto, and well worth a peek. Once home to the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada, Sir William Campbell, the home now functions as a museum and art gallery with rotating exhibits and events–so be sure to check the calendar before your visit.
Eight – Bellwoods Brewery
124 Ossington Avenue
With the rise of microbreweries in Toronto, Bellwoods Brewery truly stands out amongst the rest. It’s earned the reputation of one of the most popular breweries in town among locals, so you seem like an insider at the bar. Fair warning the wait can be long, but the rotating tap selections are well worth it.
Nine – Necropolis Cemetery
200 Winchester Street
While a tad on the morbid side, the Necropolis Cemetery is a beautiful place to wander and escape the hustle-and-bustle of Toronto. Official tours of the cemetery are offered to the public that include spooky ghost tales and a history of the park. The cemetery’s pavilion and chapel are also said to be some of the best examples of Gothic Revival in Canada.
61 Under Cliff Drive
Another close-by escape from the more metropolitan side of Toronto is Gates Gully. This expansive and beautiful mass of land in the Scarborough Bluffs is home to ten-thousand year-old artifacts, old passageways for smugglers, and the site of a man-made inn of great historical significance. Plus, the Gully also boasts some of the best hiking trails in the area.